Most Improved SEC Team: Florida Gators

Florida Gators

Kevin Liles – USA Today Sports

There wasn’t a whole lot of expectation for the 2012 Florida Gators. They’d performed below their standards the year before and most pundits didn’t have them finishing much better than they did. A dismal 2011 that saw them unable to win the big game, or the close game, doomed their season to a 3-5 SEC finish.

But fans will tell you that everything was there last year. So when the Gators stormed out and finished with one loss in 2012, many weren’t as surprised as they were just glad that a coach had clearly brought all of the talent they had together in a better way.

Will Muschamp is an incredible coach and this season is just the beginning for the Gators if they can keep him happy and under contract. His intensity, tenacity, game-time focus and overall strategies are all paying off for the Gators. His level of defensive focus has changed the brand of the Florida game again, this time for the better.

The 2011 season saw quarterback John Brantley finish with 2,044 yards passing to lead the team. There was no 1,000 yard rusher as Chris Rainey ran for 861 yards and only two touchdowns. Florida’s receiving game? Also Rainey, who led the team with an unimpressive  382 yards. In fact, the leading wide receiver for the Gators in 2011, Deonte Thompson, only had 264 yards the entire season.

But in 2012, it was a much different story. Dominated by an amazing overall rushing attack, the Gators did have a 1,000 yard rusher in Mike Gillislee. The 2011 Florida team rushed for 1,852 yards. The 2012 team rushed for 2,329.

Quarterback Jeff Driskel only threw for 1,471 yards, but don’t let that one fool you. Florida played with a run-dominant offense and when Driskel was called to the plate, he was extremely effective. Driskel has a better completion percentage (64.8) than Brantley on 24 fewer passing attempts, not to mention four fewer interceptions thrown.

So what does the 2013 season hold? We’ll have to see how many from Florida’s massive junior class might step away. There’s also a lot of freshmen on the roster however, and these players will all be eager to play in Muschamps’ system.

Dan Irwin is a sports writer for Rant Sports.  Follow him on Twitter @ danirwin_rant or on Facebook at “facebook.com/danirwin.sports“.

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